63. How Do You Talk to People When You Disagree?

Nobody seems to be able to agree on much these days. And while it’s good to stay true to your principles and beliefs, it doesn’t mean you can’t still talk to people with whom you disagree.

Quotes:

  • “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”― Frederick Douglass

Terms:

  • Decorum: Respectful behavior 
  • Empathy: The ability to understand how someone else feelings

 

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

 

Brittany: Hi Connor.

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: So it’s probably not a big shock to you that people don’t really agree on much these days. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that. I’ve noticed that.

Connor: Oh yeah.

Brittany: So the world seems pretty divided, and it seems like we’ve gotten to a point where we don’t even talk to people we disagree with anymore. Like we’ve just kind of cut them out of our lives. The thing about that is when we cut people out of our lives we start surrounding ourselves with only people who think and believe the same things we do. And that’s sometimes called an echo chamber. You kind of think of it as like standing in a room and you’re, everything you’re saying is echoing back to you because yeah, everyone you’re hanging out with is just, or associating with, they just all believe the same things. So that’s not a great thing either. So I’m curious, and the question I wanna talk about today is how can we talk to people that we disagree with? What do you think, Connor?

Connor: So one of the challenges I think with this topic is that a lot of people seem to think that if they disagree with somebody on something, that person, they probably disagree with them on everything else. They kind of lump people together based on their opinions, maybe on one issue. Like, oh, they have a, you know, different religion, so they think differently than me that way. Or, you know, they’re a member of a different political party, or they think the, you know, local sports team is bad and I’m their biggest fan or whatever, and they kind of brand people a certain way based on whatever that one topic is. And if someone’s so passionate about that topic, they kind of dismiss that person and all of their other opinions and backgrounds and perspectives based on that, you know, one characteristic or that one idea. I think that’s a huge problem because, to the point of your question, Brittany, had he talked to people when you disagree, I think it’s important to remember that just because you disagree with someone on one thing does not mean you’ll disagree with them on everything. And you can, in fact, build great friendships with people, you know, even relationships and marriages with people who you might disagree with strongly on a certain topic. But there are so much other, areas for common ground, other areas where you might agree with someone, even passionately agree with someone. And why not find what those kind of common ground opportunities are so that you can have a respectful dialogue about the things you disagree with? The problem, I think, is when you don’t have a relationship when you don’t see the other person’s humanity when you don’t see them as yourself, it’s easy to kind of dismiss them and attack them. But if my best friend takes a position that’s different from me and I think he’s totally wrong, I’m at least going to have the respect of listening to him. I’m going to politely offer my opinion. I’m going to gently try and, you know, rebut or disagree with what he said, and we’re gonna have a good dialogue. But because it’s because we both recognize one another’s, you know, worth and value, and that we are more than just one single opinion, the problem I think is social media and, things like that enable it so that we’re not seeing other people as human. We’re not seeing them like us. We’re seeing them as just that one Facebook comment or that one TikTok video or that one, you know, whatever it is. And then dismissing them all together, casting aside, all their other value and worth. They’re not even thinking about it cuz ugh, you know, he’s so wrong, he’s horrible. I don’t know. those I think are some of the bigger problems when we think about disagreeing with people, is that we don’t pause to think of where we might actually agree with those same people.

Brittany: I agree with that. And we did see some pretty cool stuff happen with criminal justice reform, nationally and on state levels, where before it used to be an issue, kind of seen as like progressive or, even, I wouldn’t even say democratic, we’ll just call it progressive. but now this is something that, libertarians at that everybody can agree is something that needs to happen, even Republicans. And so the First Step Act passed I think in 2018, and that was a time where you could see all these different legislators from different political parties coming together and they didn’t agree on anything else, anything else, but they agreed on one thing and they came together to work on that one issue. And it reminds me of my favorite Frederick Douglas quote, and that is I would unite with anybody to do right and nobody to do wrong. So I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind.

Connor: That quotes is interesting because I think the second half is also powerful. I would unite with nobody to do wrong. In other words, even political party, even if it’s my friends, you know, trying to peer pressure me into doing something wrong, even if it’s, you know, my boss telling me to do something wrong. Like, I wanna do what’s right. I never want to do what’s wrong. And even if it’s my team or my tribe or my group, you know, doing the wrong thing, I’m not gonna do what’s wrong simply because my team is the one doing it. I, love that quote because what matters is the right or wrong thing, not whose team you’re on or whose side or is it Republican or Democrat or whatever.

Brittany: But I think it’s also important to remember, I know sometimes people have a hard time saying, well, I can’t talk to this person who disagrees with me cuz I’m so, you know, morally maybe even opposed to their beliefs that I can’t be friends with them or I’m betraying my own beliefs. But, again, if you can find that one thing, that one piece of common ground, and focus on that, I think that’s how we start building bridges and talking to each other once again because we’re really not doing that right now.

Connor: I like your example of the First Step Act. This was, a bill in Congress that changed a number of laws dealing with the criminal justice system. And you’re right to point out that it did unite people, uh, from different perspectives. It reminded me of, a similar example in my work, here in Utah. We were up at the capital working on a bill, that was gonna help a lot of people. And, we had a coalition, a group of people from totally different perspectives because we wanted this bill to have a lot of support. We wanted to show the legislators, the elected officials that, this was supported by people from all kinds of backgrounds. That this wasn’t a Republican thing or a conservative thing. It wasn’t a democrat or a liberal thing. Like people from different backgrounds all agreed that this bill was important. And we were up in the Senate gallery watching all the senators down below, waiting for the vote. And it was funny because the senator who was introducing the bill, he was kind of making his pitch his explanation for why the bill was important and then he directed, the attention of all his fellow senators up to the gallery, which rarely happens. It’s, they kind of ignore everything that happens up there. And so he tells all the senators, Hey, look over there on the site, and who do we see? And he starts to name all of the people who are sitting, together. I was one of them. And, says, you know, and of course, these centers all know who all these people are. They’re kind of lobbyists for different organizations and you know, liberal and conservative and libertarian and you know, all that kind of stuff. And so these people know who we all are, but he was pointing out like, look, they’re all sitting together right? They’re all chummy right now. They’re friends. They’re not fighting on this. Everyone has kind of come together to work on this issue and that’s why this issue is so important. So you should vote for it. And it was kind of a fun example to see the power of finding ways to agree with people who you disagree with strongly. I mean, some of these people, when we have our meetings together, our little coalition meetings where we’re working on that kind of common cause issue, there are certain off-topic, issues that we just don’t talk about

Brittany: Because, you know, won’t go anywhere.

Connor: Yeah. We, know that we disagree. And so it’s just a respectful disagreement. We just set it aside and, like your quote from Frederick Douglas said, right, unite with anybody to do what is right. We know that we agree on this issue that we believe it’s right. And so we unite on that. We just kind of set our other differences aside. It’s a strategy that has worked very well. I’ve created some great relationships and friendships with these people. you know, they have very different perspectives than I do. They have very different life experiences. but you know, I have great friendships now and, I see them for who they are. And you know, I recognize that their perspectives come from their experiences and their, you know, the way they were brought up and so forth. I’m not gonna discard them or ignore them or attack them just because I happen to agree with them. And when we do disagree, when, we are focused on a bill where, you know, they are on one side and I’m on another or our organization is on another, it’s respectful disagreement. It’s not this like bashing and they’re evil.

Brittany: You used the word decorum before, it kinda reminds me of decorum, right? You can, you can disagree with people civilly.

Connor: Yeah, that’s exactly right. It’s much like, you know, with a family member you might do it where you’re just like, Hey, look, I actually want you to see this different perspective, or I think something differently like you’re saying it with kindness and, understanding. And so we’ll be in a committee room, for example, talking publicly about this issue and we might say, well, you know, I respectfully disagree with, you know, this person from the A C L U for example. And you know, here’s my position, but there’s no bashing or whatever. Because we have that relationship where we see that, you know, we are actually nice humans, and totally attack people. And I think that’s so healthy. I think our society needs a lot more of that kind of shared understanding, between people who might disagree on some issues.

Brittany: It reminds me of back in the Ron Paul days, we meaning like our, you know, our grassroots groups and Ron Paul supporters would always kind of partner with Dennis Kucinich supporters. He was another congressman, but he was kind if Ron Paul would’ve been like on the right if you’re looking at that chart, the, I think we put some world’s smallest political quiz on, the show notes before, then Dennis Cino would’ve been like on the far left. And, here are two people who have, we were all trying to talk about, you know, the free market. The conversation would not have gone in a great direction, but we all understood that the Fed was a problem. And it was really cool to see. You don’t really see many on the left saying this anymore either, by the way. But it was really cool seeing the coalitions come together. You had Ron Paul people you’d kiss percentage people and you were both working on the one issue that you could agree on. And that was a really cool time for, me to come up in politics. Cause it made me think that’s what everything is. Like it is not

Connor: So Brittany, for the younger people listening, how, can people gain skills in, this area? How can people practice, you know, finding common ground with people who they disagree, think to your students maybe who you’re talking to or what are, what are ways do you think that kids can kind of start to practice this and get better at, talking to people even when they disagree?

Brittany: Yeah, I think the first thing is just because you do disagree with somebody, don’t stop talking to them. And in fact, I would push yourself to do the opposite of that, and try to talk to ’em about something that you didn’t disagree with. But, maybe even ask about a book or a TV show. Start with something as small as even maybe a song on the radio that you both like because that can help you build a foundation of other things you like. And maybe you just have a rule that you don’t talk about the things you disagree with together. Maybe that’s just not a woman, it’s not gonna be productive, but there’s so many other things you can talk about. And it makes me sad to think of all the friendships we may never have had because we didn’t make friends with these people. So if you have a disagreement with someone on the playground, I don’t know what school is like now with, Covid and Mask. If you’re, if you’re allowed out

Connor: Or playgrounds a thing anymore,

Brittany: Who knows, But any you get into a fight with somebody, I would say don’t stop talking to them. Maybe push yourself to go outta your way and be a little bit kind and try to find common ground.

Connor: Yeah, I think that’s, exactly right. Another way to say that is build a relationship of trust.

Brittany: Yep.

Connor: Where you know, you can, they can see that you’re a nice person and you can see that they’re a, a nice person or you know, that we all have our different perspectives and, so I like your example. I think that’s a great way to do it. And even if you disagree with someone, like you say, kind of hit the pause button on that conversation and even start to find ways of, to agree on things like, what’s something that you agree with me on? Let’s focus on that. Let’s build a relationship focused on the things that we agree on. This is such a essential skill I think that a lot of adults don’t have. And so

Brittany: A lost skill, I would say

Connor: Yeah. So to the extent younger people can be thinking about this and practicing this, I think that would create a much better society because look, we, you know, even the people who, agree with me, like almost all the time disagree with me on some stuff too, and I disagree with them. And so we have to understand that there’s like this spectrum or this like this, a long line of like, on one hand, it’s, everyone agrees with Connor, and on the other hand, it’s no one agrees with Connor. Right? And so like people fall all over that line. Some people agree with me more often versus less often. Same thing with Britney, same thing with our listeners. And so we all are just kind of going along in life. the other silly thing here is we change our opinions.

Brittany: Yep. And you’re allowed to change your opinion. That’s okay.

Connor: Right? And so I used to totally disagree, with people who said that, you know, we need to let more immigrants in and we need to kind of reduce, barriers to immigration. I used to be like, no, we need all these restrictions and blah, blah, blah. And then I’d change my views. I learned more. I progressed, I, opened my mind and now I have the totally opposite opinion. Well, if someone had attacked me for that opinion rather than helped educate me, maybe I would still have that opinion, but I would still be ignorant and I wouldn’t have the relationships with people who helped me kind of learn, about that issue and helped me learn about other issues that are related to it. And so I think we have to almost have some patience with people too, right? That just because they disagree with you, maybe they’re just a year behind you or a few years behind you, maybe they haven’t yet read that book that you read that convinced you or saw that YouTube video. And so if we’re patient with people we disagree with and maybe give them an opportunity to learn and, progress just like we did, I think that’s a much better position because everyone’s kind of learning, everyone’s moving along in life. I think we need to have a little bit more patience with people as they’re on their own journey.

Brittany: I think you’re right about that. and empathy would be the other word, and maybe we’ll draw a definition in the show notes, but, being able to kind of walk a mile in someone’s shoes, as they say, being able to understand that people have different experiences and they might have, they might feel a different way about something than you do. And that doesn’t mean you have to agree with that, but you can understand it a little bit more. And that helps us build like you said, a relationship of trust.

Connor: That’s a great note to end on guys. Thanks as always for listening. Make sure to share the podcast with friends and family alike, Tuttletwins.com/podcast. Thanks as always for listening. And Brittany, until next time, we’ll talk to you later.

Brittany: Talk to you later.

 

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